Lawyers say Justice Department’s federal moratorium on executions “not enough”

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Death penalty advocates criticize the Biden administration’s moratorium on federal executions as inadequate, while some conservatives call the move “shameful.”

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said the moratorium “does nothing” to abolish capital punishment.

“Put simply, if the administration doesn’t repeal or commute it isn’t taking action to end the #federal death penalty,” Dunham tweeted Thursday. “He may be making reforms, but he’s not fulfilling the Biden campaign pledge [to do so]. “

Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas has said the administration’s moratorium is misguided.

“White supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine African Americans during Bible study,” Mr. Cotton tweeted. “Merrick Garland has just suspended his execution. Shameful.”

The organization Witness to Innocence echoed Mr Dunham’s sentiments, tweeting that the Department of Justice’s action is “a step in the right direction, but not enough.” Biden can and should commute fed on death row.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced the moratorium Thursday night, just hours after the execution of John Hummel, convicted of murdering his family in Texas.

The moratorium will be in place while the Justice Department reviews the policies and procedures implemented over the past two years by the Trump administration, which executed 13 people, after 17 years without no federal enforcement.

Under the former president, officials banned the Food and Drug Administration from regulating execution methods and allowed the administration of one execution drug instead of three. The Trump administration also shortened the deadline for notifying prisoners of their date of death, which some lawyers say made it more difficult to file an appeal.

Additionally, the Trump administration has made legal the use of firing squads or a gas chamber for executions, a move that has been criticized as unreliable and inhumane.

Mr Dunham criticized the scope of the new review as being too “narrow”.

“If the Justice Department’s review is as narrow as the memorandum suggests – that is, it only deals with things the Trump administration has done to speed up executions and expand available methods to kill federal prisoners – it barely scratches the surface of #death penalty reform, ”Mr. Dunham tweeted.

He said that a moratorium on a “serious” review of the entire federal death penalty system “would have some symbolic value as opposed to this mini-moratorium / mini-study”.

Mr Garland did not provide a timeline for the review, but said no prisoners would be sentenced to death or executed while they were underway.

“The Department of Justice must ensure that all members of the federal criminal justice system are not only granted the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, but are also treated in a fair and humane manner,” Mr. Garland said in a press release. “This obligation has particular force in cases of capital punishment. “

Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the United States in 1976, a total of 1,534 people have been executed in the United States – the vast majority being state, not federal, executions – and 28 people are expected to be executed over the years. next few years, four of which are scheduled for this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center website.

In March, Virginia became the 23rd state to abolish the death penalty.

Opponents of the death penalty argue that it disproportionately targets minorities, is inhumane, burdens taxpayers and risks killing an innocent person.

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